Talks at Hokkaido University

This week I was invited by Prof. Hiro Iizuka, on behalf of the Department of Information Science and Technology at Hokkaido University, to continue collaborations with the Laboratory of Autonomous Systems Engineering.

During my stay I will also give two public seminars:

15:00 on Tuesday, Feb. 21, Department of Information Science and Technology:

“Using big data to study the social mind: brain, language, and urbanism”

17:15 on Thursday, Feb. 23, Graduate School of Letters:

“The mysterious origins of the symbolic mind”

International Symposium on the Sociopolitical Organization of Teotihuacan

It has been 5 years since I moved to Mexico to create a computational model of the sociopolitical organization of ancient Teotihuacan. I am happy to report that this project has matured. I am involved in the organization of the International Symposium on the Sociopolitical Organization of Teotihuacan, which will bring together the world’s leading experts working on this topic.


At the symposium I will I gave talk on the latest results of the model. The title and abstract are as follows:

A computational model of Teotihuacan’s collective government: New insights into role of the city’s division into districts

Tom Froese

Experts remain divided about the nature of the sociopolitical system of ancient Teotihuacan, which was one of the earliest and largest urban civilizations of the Americas. Excavations hoping to find compelling evidence of powerful rulers, such as a royal tomb, keep coming away empty-handed. But the alternative possibility of a corporate or collective government still remains poorly understood. There is a lack of evidence of a powerful bureaucracy, such as durable record keeping, but a decentralized network limited to the level of neighborhood representatives seems susceptible to problems of collective action.

Previously we used a computational model to show that in principle this latter worry is unfounded, as long as we assume that the network’s topology could be transformed via community rituals and was not strongly subdivided. Here we extend this model to investigate whether increased social hierarchy could mitigate the negative effects of strong divisions. We found a special synergy between hierarchy and community ritual in that only their combination improved the extent of cooperation, which is consistent with portrayals of the elite as religious specialists serving the public good and with the apparent absence of extensive secular institutions.

Current work is investigating whether a reduction in the city’s number of districts could reduce the necessity for this kind of centralized hierarchy.

Cognitive science course next semester

Here is the information about the course I will teach at UNAM next semester.

The course will introduce ongoing debates in cognitive science about our changing understanding of the mind. Instead of being thought of as a digital computer inside the brain, mind is now widely considered to be an embodied, embedded and extended activity in the world. These ideas will be illustrated based on case studies of research in agent-based models, complex systems and human-computer interfaces, with special emphasis on demonstrating how social interactions and technologies shape our mind.

Students are not expected to program models nor to design interfaces, but to understand the implications of the new cognitive science and to apply them to their own research interests.

The course will be taught mainly in English to better prepare students for the special terms used by leading researchers in cognitive science.

For an introduction to this field, see this video:

Here is the official course information:

Posgrado en Ciencia e Ingeniería de la Computación (PCIC)

Plan: Maestría en Ciencia e Ingeniería de la Computación (Clave 80-4014)
Actividad académica: Temas Selectos de Inteligencia Artificial
Tema: Agentes autónomos y multiagentes (o: “Agentes Autónomos, Sistemas Sociales, y la Nueva Ciencia Cognitiva”)
Horarios: Lunes y Miércoles, 11:30 – 13:00
Profesor: Dr. Tom Froese

The course program can be downloaded here.

New paper on the irreducibility of social interaction dynamics

Exciting new paper written by members of the 4E Cognition Group…

4E Cognition Group

In an upcoming publication in the journals Frontiers in Psychology we present a couple of findings that challenge the prevalent idea that properties of social interaction can be explained in terms of individual properties alone.

Time series analysis of embodied interaction: Movement variability and complexity matching as dyadic properties

Leonardo Zapata-Fonseca, Dobromir G. Dotov, Ruben Y. Fossion, and Tom Froese

There is a growing consensus that a fuller understanding of social cognition depends on more systematic studies of real-time social interaction. Such studies require methods that can deal with the complex dynamics taking place at multiple interdependent temporal and spatial scales, spanning sub-personal, personal, and dyadic levels of analysis. We demonstrate the value of adopting an extended multi-scale approach by re-analyzing movement time series generated in a study of embodied dyadic interaction in a minimal virtual reality environment (a perceptual crossing experiment).

Reduced movement variability revealed an interdependence between social…

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New research project grant received

I am happy to report that my application for the 2017 call for research projects issued by UNAM’s “Programa de Apoyo a Proyectos de Investigación e Innovación Tecnológica” (PAPIIT) was successful.

The project is entitled “Explorando los alcances de la auto-organización social: desde la cultura hasta la célula” (IA104717). Its overarching aim is to support the activities of the 4E Cognition Group.

Philosophy events at UOW

Today we will have a workshop on “The Origins and Nature of Contentful Minds: Continuity, Transformation, Integration?” in the University of Wollongong’s Research Hub, Building 19 – Room 2072. The program can be downloaded here.

My contribution is entitled: “Does the evolved apprentice model remain in the zone of latent solutions?”

Then from Wednesday to Friday there will be the 2016 UOW Philosophy Training Conference, where I will give an invited talk with the title “Hallucinations: Inner fictions, outer realities, or something in between?”

Workshop on Narrative Therapy and Cultural Affordances

Here is information about this Friday’s little workshop:

Workshop on Narrative Therapy and Cultural Affordances

Friday 25th November 2016
Northfield’s Campus, University of Wollongong
14:00-18:00, Room 19.G015, Building 19

Narrative therapy is based on the premise that people are the experts of their own lives, and that they have skills, beliefs, and values that will assist them to reduce the influence of problems. As its name suggests, this approach emphasizes the therapeutic potential of the stories that people narrate about their lives. In particular, its efficacy is assumed to reside in the differences that can be made through particular tellings and retellings, which involves finding ways of understanding the stories, and ways of re-authoring them in collaboration with the therapist.

This workshop will evaluate narrative therapy from a philosophical perspective. In particular, the aim is to discuss whether the narrative practice hypothesis about folk psychology could help to shed light on narrative therapy and its efficacy. Particular emphasis will be given to discuss the potential role of reshaping one’s culturally mediated affordances for action.


Daniel D. Hutto, Professor of Philosophical Psychology, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, UOW
Tom Froese, Vice Chancellor’s International Scholar, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, UOW & Research Institute for Applied Mathematics and Systems, National Autonomous University of Mexico
Glenda Satne, Vice Chancellor’s Fellow, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, UOW
Nicolle Brancazio and Jarrah Aubourg, Doctoral Candidates, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, UOW
Miguel Segundo Ortin, Doctoral Candidate, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, UOW
Farid Zahnoun, Visiting Doctoral Candidate, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, UOW & Centre for Philosophical Psychology, Department of Philosophy, University of Antwerp.

All welcome.

Workshop on the origins of the symbolic mind

Please see information about this week’s workshop below:

Workshop on the origins of the symbolic mind

Wednesday 16th November 2016
Northfield’s Campus, University of Wollongong
14:00-18:00, Research Hub (19.2072), Building 19

Dates for the first appearances of crucial technological innovations and symbolic material culture are continually being pushed back in time. This trend contradicts the theory that a mutation related to brain function caused a sudden and relatively recent cognitive revolution in our lineage. However, the alternative theory of gradual biological evolution may not fit the archaeological record, either. Traditions within populations are discontinuous in time and space, while independent populations can converge on common practices. Accordingly, there is a growing consensus that changes in the archaeological record of human behavior are better explained by changes in local conditions, such as ecology, demography, and culture.

What does this consensus tell us about the origins of symbolic cognition? Given increasingly older dates for key innovations and the shift in explanatory focus from internal biology to external factors, the mainstream argument is that cognitive modernity must be much older than previously thought. The workshop will critically evaluate the assumed identification of biological continuity with cognitive continuity. It will also consider to what extent cognitive capacities are innate and context independent, and will explore the tensions between such a nativist theory of cognition and recent developments in cognitive science, which emphasize that cognition is scaffolded, extended, and even constituted by behavioral practices. Contributions to this workshop will consider possible explanations of distinctive features of symbolic minds – explanations that may depend not only or mainly on having the right kind of biological capacities but more pivotally on transforming them via interaction with the appropriate culturally created local conditions.

This workshop brings together archaeologists and philosophers working at the University of Wollongong (UOW) to explore the implications of these developments for cognitive archaeology and for cognitive science more generally.


Alex Mackay, Senior Lecturer, ARC DECRA Fellow, Centre for Archaeological Science, UOW
Sam Lin, Lecturer, Centre for Archaeological Science, UOW
Zenobia Jacobs, Professor, ARC QEII Research Fellow, Centre for Archaeological Science, UOW
Tom Froese, Vice Chancellor’s International Scholar, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, UOW
Daniel D. Hutto, Professor of Philosophical Psychology, School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, UOW

All welcome.

Talk on genuine intersubjectivity at UOW, Australia

I was awarded a Vice-Chancellor’s International Scholar Award to come to the University of Wollongong in Australia from Oct 3 to Dec 3 this year. The aim of my visit is to integrate Dan Hutto and his group’s work on radical enactive philosophy of mind at the School of Humanities and Social Inquiry with the empirical work on the earliest symbolic expressions conducted by members of the university’s Center for Archaeological Science.

As part of my stay here I am scheduled to give a public seminar on my research into social interaction. Here is the announcement:

Title/Topic: When me and you are more than two: Searching for the conditions of genuine intersubjectivity
Speaker: Dr. Tom Froese (National Autonomous University of Mexico; UOW VISA Fellow)
Time: 3.30 to 5.00pm
Place: 19.2072 (Research Hub)
Contact: Michael Kirchhoff (

Abstract: The most meaningful experiences in our lives derive much of their significance from being shared with other people. However, is it actually possible to share a moment such that there are two subjects of one experience? Mainstream cognitive science is forced to reject this possibility of genuine intersubjectivity because another person can only play an instrumental role in the generation of one’s experience. Essentially, our experiences with family, friends, and loved ones do not involve them at all; these experiences are ultimately constituted by mental representations in one’s mind for which they can, at best, serve as an external cause or trigger. In this talk I question the validity of this solipsistic approach. Drawing on insights from dynamical systems modeling, I consider the basic conditions that would allow interacting individuals to become transformed into one integrated system with collective properties. I then present the latest evidence from psychological experiments that investigate the role that social interaction plays in shaping our awareness of other minds. I conclude that there is nothing mysterious about the possibility of genuine intersubjectivity.

Understanding complexity

posterThe prestigious Colegio Nacional of Mexico is holding a two-day event on complexity and interdisciplinarity “Entendiendo la complejidad: La multidisciplina en las ciencias“, September 27-28.

The event is open to the public and will be broadcast live.

I was invited to give a talk about my research as a member of the Centro de Ciencias de la Complejidad.

The title of my talk is “La organización política de Teotihuacan como sistema complejo”, and is scheduled to start tomorrow at 18:15.

The full program can be found here.

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